Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Response from Kyle D. Payne: On Perpetration, Accountability, and Profeminism

Yesterday afternoon I received this reply from Kyle which is his response to my posted questions here. Kyle references some of the commentary/discussion that follows that blogpost. I've just checked Kyle's own blog and found he posted it there as well.

Central to this whole discussion is a woman, unnamed here and also hopefully in the press, who Kyle sexually violated while she was unconscious while he was working as a Resident Assistant at the college that was her academic safe home, until his violation of her occurred. Campus sexual assault often and usually falls under the umbrella of sex crimes that happen in the home against women who know their perpetrators. When students are in school, it is often their home away from their home of origin.

Below is his reply, unedited. Interspersed with his reply, inside brackets and in bold, are my responses. I considered just putting up his statement uninterrupted, but I realised it was politically problematic and irresponsible to do so. Giving perpetrators airtime that is uninterrupted with feminist concerns is not something I have any desire to promote.

Hi Julian,

Thank you for sharing your questions about my return to blogging and especially for asking about how I intend to hold myself accountable and live up to my own professed values. I appreciate you “calling me out” in general - I think it’s appropriate (and you’ve done a nice job of clarifying why in your comment to Valerie). But also, it is helpful for me to know what questions people have, particularly feminist or pro-feminist bloggers who have commented on my harmful (and hypocritical) actions.

One of the problems - and for the sake of your questions, let’s leave it at one for the moment - with my “Because you deserve to know” post from August 2008 is that I took what should have merely been an apology and a brief explanation of what I’m doing to make amends and turned it into a personal narrative. In other words, I wrote on my terms, rather than directly in response to the concerns of a community of feminists (or, for that matter, a loose network of feminists of all stripes whose only common bond is a reliable internet connection and a considerable amount of spare time). That was wrong.

Now, even as I am very critical of that piece of writing, I do believe that it was heartfelt, honest, and relevant to my personal transformation. But is it something that needed to be shared in that context? Absolutely not. It was offensive. And even if my struggles as a survivor of sexual abuse (and connections with anti-rape/anti-porn activism, research, and advocacy), my confusion about violating a woman, and the identity crisis that followed was of any significance to readers, it was the wrong time, given the post’s close proximity to my sentencing. Not to mention the fact that I was only beginning to understand the personal issues involved.

As I approach this piece of writing, then, I am pleased to have a structure with specific questions - it makes it less likely (though, let’s be honest, not impossible - just look at this intro!) that I will rush off all willy-nilly with little regard for what people actually want to know, and ultimately, offend readers. So, a quick note, and then I’ll get crackin’ on your questions.

[I am always concerned about someone's humanity, and their political perspective, when they offer up the problem as being offensive--someone does something misogynistic or racist and registers it as wrong because it was 'offensive'. That's not my understanding of what is wrong. I believe it's the harm of an act, the actual, lived damage (or damage which kills) to an individual human being and to the class of human beings being simultaneously terrorised and subordinated that is the issue. Whether or not something is offensive is usually entirely beside the point for me as a profeminist activist. "Offense" relegates political harm to an abrasion of someone's sensibilities.]

I will attempt to provide thorough answers to your questions (and those of anyone else who would like to participate in this discussion), and I am willing to answer any follow-up questions. Obviously there may be questions I would prefer to discuss privately, and there are others I can’t or simply won’t answer. But in the interest of maintaining an open and honest dialogue, I will, at the very least, explain why I am not answering a particular question. As much as possible, I may simply ask that a question be rephrased. As always, I welcome your feedback and criticism.

[In my experience, one thing perpetrators do is to try and maintain control of situations and interpretations which ought not be in their control. What's written above falls under that category.]

[Julian wrote:] [M]y surprise stems in part from there being no public statement on your blog about your release from jail and what has happened to you in the last several months, taking us through your decision to blog again. Can you understand why that might concern some of those you have been linked to in the blogosphere?

In my public statement last August, I committed to a hiatus from blogging until I have been “welcomed back into a community of feminists,” which was an inarticulate, potentially misleading, and passive way of saying that I wanted to re-establish a relationship of trust and mutual support with feminists (which, along with re-building other relationships, I have begun to do) before continuing to have a “public voice” on any range of subjects.Without this foundation, I worried that the attention and emotional energy I invested in blogging might divert from holding myself accountable to feminists (and women generally), as it did in the months between the time of my arrest (February 2008) and sentencing (August 2008). In fact, as I was mum on the issue at the time I started my blog in November 2007, you could say that blogging was always, to some degree, an “escape” from holding myself accountable. However, it developed into, as I later realized, a vehicle through which I could better get to know, think critically about, and fess up to my actions in the long run, while also figuring out how those actions fit into my life and what that means for me in the present moment.

[There is no evidence of anything other than escaping responsibility on Kyle's blog, prior to this latest post. He may well have been figuring things out offline but why did none of that appear online in 2008?

(Not pressing issues for the feminist, or perhaps any other, blogosphere, I understand, but then I again, I don’t claim to have anything particularly important to say, or demand/ask that anyone read my blog.)

[I think that statement is disingenuous which is to say dishonest. Why? Because Kyle references his relationship to feminist campaigns and strategies for fighting patriarchal atrocities, particularly those that involve what too many men experience as "sexual". Concurrently with blogging in the first half of last year, Kyle also recorded and made public a series of video posts on YouTube, which he has since taken down. He was strongly encouraged to do this; he didn't do it because he figured out on his own that he should. In those posts it was clear he was speaking with authority on feminist matters. This necessarily takes attention from feminists and other profeminists, to monitor what is being said "in the name of feminism". This blog and anything I do or write, is and ought always been understood to be impacting women--Womanists and Feminists in particular.]

In short, I don’t buy the argument raised by Hugo, despite his apparent intimate knowledge of my experiences and personal transformation (or lack thereof) during the last several months, that because blogging once enabled me to evade accountability, it can never serve any other purpose. But maybe he’s right. Maybe all of this really is for show because I’m so desperate to gain favor with feminist communities. “That horse done left the barn?” Whatever shall I do?! Or maybe one would do well to save the impassioned, arrogant lecture for another day, perhaps after getting to know or even meeting one’s subject.

[This sort of defensiveness is typical of someone who "doesn't get it"; I believe far too much of his behavior has been self-serving and self-absorbed. Evidence above. What I believe Kyle doesn't get was made very clear to me by watching a feminist woman speak a battering boyfriend of a woman. Her message to him, which I found stunningly to the point was this: "If you really care about her, and you acknowledge that your behavior has injured her, the only loving option for you is to remove yourself from her life. And for you to stay out of her life until such time that experts on battery and abusive relationships have determined it is safe for you to re-engage with her, if ever." Kyle is taking responsibility for removing himself from the population he greatly and negatively impacted, the Womanist/Feminist blogosphere, among other populations, such as that at the college he attended.]

If blogging is preventing me, at this point in time, from being held accountable as a man who wants to live a pro-feminist lifestyle, or if it is in some way harming other people, then I welcome that feedback (gross generalizations aside). I believe, just as it allowed me to speak publicly about my crime and the circumstances surrounding it, that blogging will allow me to be engaged in dialogue with others, while also practicing critical self-reflection. I also believe it will help me, and perhaps others, understand my experiences in a way that transcends the dualistic tendencies evident in the vast majority of commentary on my case - tendencies I have certainly been guilty of applying in the past, as I will explain. Continuing as a blogger (assuming I do), while taking care of my personal responsibilities, depends largely on establishing and maintaining strong relationships with friends, family members, colleagues, critics, and helping professionals who can, among other things, call me out when I’m not learning from my mistakes.

[I see more defensiveness coupled with a common tactic: critique the critics for being, in whatever way, "gross generalizations". This is not to say that gross generalisations "happen" when someone does something atrocious, it is rather to say that when the public does this, it is to be expected, is not unwarranted, and should not become a target of disappointment, publicly, by the perpetrator. This is a form of turning the tables, which, in my experience, male supremacist abusers are quite effective at doing. This falls under the "if only you could explain this to me in a way that would be helpful to me" umbrella. The point of focus, once again, is the perpetrator and how he's treated, rather than the victim and the extent to which the perpetrator owns what he did, responsibly. What should be happening in abundance here is self-cricitism, not criticism of the critics. His behavior has alarmed people for good reasons: because it was grossly violative. The wish for men who commit acts like this to be seen once again as fully human, as a person who committed a grievous act, but who is capable of being rehabilitated. So far, we have no information that rehabilitation is possible or likely. And that level of defensiveness, this far down the alleged road to what some folks often call "recovery" is a sign of lack of self-awareness of what the problem is. I understand male supremacist perpetrators to be dangerous to the extent that they remain defensive and incapable of holding their critics in as much of a compassionate place as they wish their critics held them. As a profeminist once said--I'm paraphrasing--"If you've not been shot dead by someone who knows what you did, consider that a rather generous expression of collective compassion on the part of the feminist community."]

And just so we’re on the same page, Julian, I include you (and other bloggers who are willing to engage me, at least in part, as something more than a stereotype) in this list. I do, however, respect and appreciate that your interest, as I understand it, is simply women’s safety and well-being. While you may accomplish it inadvertently, you are not pursuing this dialogue to help me per se, and that’s fine with me.

[I do not have an investment in the betterment of a perpetrator's humanity, exactly. If that happens to occur in such a way that results in women being safer, including during the process of 'getting better', great. But the core concern, for any profeminist, in my view, ought to be "is the victim safer" and "are women less oppressed"? In my experience, the arrogance of male supremacist perpetrators to be upset with people who stereotype them as "just, only, and always a perpetrator" is deep and often unshakable, and is often a form of political self-absorption, if not also sociopathy.]

A quick note on recent posts. Recent additions to my blog include new posts on civil disobedience, school shootings, “McJournalism,” ROTC discrimination, as well as several (5) articles from my college years (which I believe are all clearly identified as such). [I cannot find Kyle's name with some of those posts; maybe I'm not looking in the right places. And his "about this blog" info still doesn't tell us who he is or where he lives.] I understand that a few of these old articles (3) - those dealing with various forms of feminist or feminist-inspired justice work - struck up some conflict, implying that I was “back at it,” speaking on behalf of feminism/feminists (and in doing so, supposedly pretending that I’ve never acted in anti-feminist ways). [No. This inaccurately frames the issue, dramatically. Kyle was, by any measure known to feminist communities I've been part of, to not simply "re-emerge" without immediately identifying where he was, what he now understood, and how women are safer than they were due to whatever has happened to him in the meantime. At least that. It would also be responsible to re-emerge to say "It is no longer appropriate for me to have this forum. Showing up as if nothing happened in the interim period is, for me, bizarre behavior, deeply out of touch with anything resembling responsible profeminist behavior.] The “speaking on behalf of” business is misleading to begin with - I’m not certain I have ever claimed to speak for feminism or feminists, emphasized my perspective as a man over women’s voices, etc. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I did not add this material to boast feminist credentials - after all, what would that accomplish, given the fact that these supposed credentials are clearly dated prior to my crime in January ‘07? Instead, I wanted to add some complexity to a story that has been twisted, often deliberately, to make for a simple, easy-to-digest spectacle. Also, with regard to the timing, the old articles just recently became available to me.

[That doesn't address this core issue; why would Kyle come back to his blog and not immediately deal with the most glaring issue at hand: his violation of another human being, and the consequences he's had to face thus far, which in my view are far too pro-perpetrator, and far too invisibilising of the victim's humanity. Even to this point, Kyle has not made reference to what he actually did to her, nor did he fully name his actions on his blog prior to him being in jail.]

I have no intention of blogging about feminism in the future, unless invited to do so by feminists… and even then, I don’t think it’s that great of an idea.

[If Kyle is to blog at all, why isn't he blogging about his crime as understood and named by feminists, not the court system?]

(Note to bloggers: the “invitation” bit is to define parameters, not because I think I deserve such an invitation, not because I have some special insight into women’s concerns, not because I am counting down the days to some magical reunion, etc. So let’s hold off on the, “Can you believe what Kyle said?!” routine. Please and thank you.)

[Huh? What the fuck is that? Self-righteously trying to control how others respond to him? If I'm reading that right, and I may not be, Kyle appears indignant at people being frightened, triggered, upset, betrayed, horrified, cynical, and furious by Kyle's horrendous behavior? This is even more astounding self-absorption.]

With regard to linking, I have added links recently to various websites and blogs of interest to me, and ideally, to my readers. I have also complied with requests from a few of these bloggers to remove links to their sites. I did not mean to imply any type of relationship or association with other bloggers by linking to their work - I am not, for instance, convinced that Cara at The Curvature and I are best buddies, or that we ought to be, or that she “endorses” my work. But that’s not the point. They perceived some level of association and were uncomfortable with it, so they asked that I remove links, which I did. And in at least one case, it was a repeat request - I did not keep a record of removal requests from last year and which links I removed, so I made the mistake of re-adding at least one link recently.

[Kyle linking to other political people and groups means is a relevant issue, and remains one of particular concern to me, given that I am one of the blogs he links to. I have been challenged here to ask Kyle to remove my link on his blog. I have very mixed feelings about doing that, and haven't ask Kyle to do that as yet. My chief concern is that if he only links to blogs or political groups that mention nothing about what he's done, he can appear to new arrivals as not-a-perpetrator. I believe every woman, certainly, should know what Kyle did, and where Kyle is living currently. By going to his blog, they should know this. It is not apparent what he did, nor that he served time in jail for doing something much more minor: invading a room and possibly stealing something from it.]

In general, I can’t help but feel that the territory disputes over whether or not a person is allowed to blog, what subjects a blogger is allowed to discuss, as well as which sites a blogger is allowed to link, are unnecessary and a huge drain on resources. With all due respect to “policing” a movement, I guess I tend to fall back on the assumption that, in moments of contention, we disagree and critique, or we simply direct our finite energies in other directions, effectively ignoring the blogger in question and his or her writings.

And this is very likely, at least partially, male privilege talking. But it’s on my mind.

[The only policing that ought to be happening is tracking Kyle's movement and behavior around women. What he writes about above I perceive as a diversionary tactic. Not relevant. And, yes, profoundly male supremacist in its assumptions, which still place him and his freedoms and entitlements at the center of his ethical universe. More relevant is this: why did Kyle not face more consequences for the crim he committed? Why does he assume he is free to blog, to speak out, to live a life of someone as if that someone hadn't damaged another human being in seriously sexually violative and cowardly ways? I consider those who sexually assault people whose capacity to fight back with aggressive force, such as the very inebriated, the drugged, some of the physically disabled, some elderly people, and some children, to be among the most despicable and cowardly of sexual violence perpetrators.]

I cannot imagine we will ever all agree on precisely the rights and responsibilities of bloggers, or human beings in general. So the above proposal is inevitably a compromise. But such is the nature of human existence (i.e. we make compromises or, well, we fight bitterly and die) - I can’t imagine this is a news flash for anyone reading this post. I respect, for instance, Ren’s right to “dog” me on a weekly basis for allegedly returning to my uber-manipulative ways, if that’s how she likes to spend her free time. In turn, I will probably ignore her on a weekly basis. It’s a compromise.

[More self-absorption. More meandering off-topic. More focus on criticising those who have every right and reason to critique Kyle. That some are 'using' his case to blast feminist activism against pornography is grotesque to me; it is also to be expected. It so greatly shifts the focus away from the crimes men do, as men, and onto others who are attempting, in a variety of ways, to challenge the rights and entitlements men have to do these things. That those who are politically against anti-pornography feminists use profeminist men's abuses of others is a social reality. It is but one reason why I think profeminist men have a different standard of self-responsibility, and must live fully accountable to feminists in such a way that such a crime as the one Kyle committed is not possible. This means, for example, that as he approached the victim's dorm room, he instead took out his phone and called 9-1-1 stating "I'm about to commit a sex crime." He is structurally entitled not to do that. Doing that would be "responsible" in the profeminist sense.]

I have seen many concerns expressed about my unwanted “return to the feminist blogosphere,” or my “return to blogging as a feminist voice,” which I believe gives me too much credit. For one, I don’t believe free speech is up for negotiation here. I am well aware that I have lost all credibility as a pro-feminist man - that’s no secret. So I fully expect that many feminists and pro-feminist men reading my new posts (again, none of these directly pertain to feminism) may dismiss my ideas outright. And that’s perfectly fine. Dismiss it, find something better to read. But I struggle with the notion that feminists and pro-feminist bloggers feel the need to banish me, or anyone, from the “feminist blogosphere.” Again, it seems like a waste of precious resources (e.g. time and energy). And also, the whole concept of banishment here seems to suggest that I just walked right in of my own volition - since my release last month, when did I knock on the door, and who let me in?

[This whole section of his reply, manifesting in especially thick form in the paragraph above, continues to demonstrate the boldness and arrogance of those who act from male privileges and those who do not wish to be honest with themselves or others. This is all diversionary and rife with male entitlements. His continuing effort to make something very specific into something more general, is one of many male supremacist tactics for evading truth-telling and accountability. And the only reason being honest matters, is because it is what allows others to determine their level of safety around someone else who is, to some, a known perpetrator of a sex crime.]

I don’t quite comprehend what banishment entails in this context, and I presume others are experiencing the same confusion since banishment from a particular ’sphere is so often conflated with banishment from the internet… and again, really? That’s the answer - banishing people from the internet? If it is so apparent that I truly am a monster, a narcissist, a perpetual (*insert simplistic label*), incapable of learning, growing, and engaging in any sort of redeeming personal transformation - I’ve seen this explicitly stated in countless places, but if you’re interested in the most indulgent if blissfully ignorant recent psychoanalysis, please see Hugo’s open letter - then one could well assume that I pose no threat to the feminist blogosphere, or anyone else. I am, it would seem, nothing more than a punch line, a spectacle.

[This is not about Kyle, but he only sees it as being about him. In my view, this level self-centeredness on his part makes him dangerous to others.]

Also, I’m not so sure merely self-publishing on a blog, particularly with nothing so much as an attempt at speaking for or about feminism since my release, constitutes an intrusion into the feminist blogosphere. When did I try to sign up as a member of said blogosphere? When did I force anyone, or even ask anyone, to read my writings? And since August of last year, when I openly admitted to my crime, when have I made any attempt whatsoever to hide my wrongdoings and mislead anyone? When did I supposedly pretend that I never did anything wrong? When did I ask anyone to forgive me or forget the harm I’ve caused? When did I ask for, or imply that I am entitled to, your trust, acceptance, respect, and support? Again, I believe I’ve been given a little too much (or too little) credit.

[First, Kyle has never fully or adequately named his crime. On his blog, he has called it things that keep in a thick fog around the specific details of what he did. Kyle did much of the above by continuing his blog while removing his name, image, location, and by not informing his readers of what has happened in the last six months of his life, and why.]

I do appreciate the need for me to be held accountable, which is why I have not disregarded the recent round of criticism, or this line of questioning c/o Julian. What I would suggest, however, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, is that we continue with a few basic assumptions in mind. [This is pure male supremacist arrogance and entitlement.] First, I will most likely live on this Earth for a fairly long period of time, and in the process, continue breathing, having thoughts, and interacting with other human beings in a variety of ways. [This is due in large measure to the compassion of those you have upset, and to the fact that you never insisted that your attorney change the charges you faced to more accurately reflect what you did.] I can sympathize with the torches and pitchforks, death threats, and all the rest, but let’s at least consider the possibility that I am not going to simply disappear, and in doing so, reinforce the perception that we as a society are clueless as to how to engage people who have made mistakes in the past (and who go on living, attempting to learn from those mistakes, and dare I say it, actually learn… it happens).

[Committing an act of sexual assault is not a mistake. It is rarely a crime. It is rarely perceived to be a human rights violation. It is commonly misunderstood as unstoppable, natural, and unpredictable by the perpetrator.It is an act of violence, of inhumane behavior, of gross political and psychological--if not also physical--harm, usually misogynistic and male supremacist in content and effect. There's no mistake here. A mistake was not committed over one year ago. To frame such an act up as "a mistake" shows a serious lack of comprehension of what Kyle did and how he holds what he did, to disturbingly rationalise it into something else.]

(Again, please consider interrogating the assumption that personal transformation can only occur when one disappears entirely from public view, being neatly reduced into the “offender” category, leaving the “non-offenders” in peace to make sense of things without the unpleasantness of cognitive dissonance. I am happy to leave feminist bloggers alone, and I believe I have as of late. But I will not go into hiding because my presence in any sort of public way causes you to have to think and occasionally challenge your assumptions.)

[In my opinion, this is pure male supremacist horseshit. Kyle has had a variety of opportunities to be accountable and completely honest about what he did, and he has repeatedly chosen not to be, including in this correspondence.]

Secondly, the simple fact that I share my perspective with others does not mean that I am, or that I think I am, an expert or authority, or that my voice is more important than anyone else’s, or that I embody a particular political identity (e.g. feminist). I am a work in progress (and one with pretty significant progress left to go), and it is through my experiences over the last year or so, including my experiences in the almighty and heavily guarded blogosphere, that I have become much more in tune with this fundamental truth. This whole dilemma over me identifying with feminist politics, while having a decidedly anti-feminist act (even if an isolated one) in my past, is obviously difficult to accept. But it does not automatically mean I am posing, lying, manipulating, “trolling,” or some other convenient explanation when I publish something on my blog.

[This is more of the same of what I've named earlier that is seriously problematic, outrageously self-serving, and astoundingly self-centered.]

Are these acceptable assumptions with which to establish a common ground?

[There never was a common ground. In matters of sexual politics, "common ground" is a liberal illusion.]

I do, as always, encourage criticism on the views I share on my blog. And of course, since my ethic on blogging is clearly no Ultimate Truth, I welcome others’ feedback on my decision to return to blogging. Emphasis, if possible, on what actual harm I am causing, in concrete terms. Note to Hugo and countless other pop psychologists - please stick to what and whom you know. While I appreciate that people may feel that the timing is wrong, I suspect that the timing will always be wrong for someone. So it would help me a lot to understand specific, relatively unpacked concerns regarding my return to blogging, what I blog about, etc.

[Again, my concern is that Kyle has made his appearance, location, name, and history--named fully and accurately, from a feminist standpoint--go away. And, to me, this means women are more, not less, in danger. Men's dishonesty, and evasive tactics in conversation, are one of many key interpersonal components in how men's unjust power over women is kept strong.]

And if I have somehow managed to pull a fast one on the world by openly confessing to my crime (in a very public manner) [in a self-servingly dishonest and incomplete manner] last year and discussing it openly in this context, I welcome your suggestions as to how I might ensure that visitors to my blog are well aware of my wrongdoings while not judging me [no, just seeing you in the context of what you did] based purely on that miniscule snapshot of my life. [Calling the gross sexual assault of a human being an act that can then be put into memory as "a miniscule shapshot of my life" is about as out-of-touch with reality as it gets. In what sense is such a crime miniscule? And to whom?]

[I believe Kyle ought to be questioning many of the assumptions he is walking around with, about his freedoms, entitlements, political position, and willingness to name reality in a way that doesn't make him the victim, and his critics the perpetrators.]

[Julian wrote:] What can you tell those of us you have known online, even if only as a fellow profeminist blogger, about how and to what extent you believe yourself to be of less danger to women than you were about one year ago?

My first reaction to this question, honestly, was to ask, “Is what I think relevant?” I could make all sorts of claims about my character, my values, my feelings, and my political views in the same way that I might have prior to violating a woman in January ‘07. I could even give a play-by-play of my efforts at personal transformation. Would that make me any less dangerous? To some extent, any claim by a man in patriarchy that he does not pose a threat (or a significant threat) to women is suspect. As a result, I’m hesitant to answer at all, and instead I think it would be more appropriate for women to judge based on my actions.

[I agree.]

In order to flesh out some of what I have learned, I will say, for what it’s worth, that I do feel that I am less of a danger to women, in part because I am actually aware of my capacity to harm women, as well as my own inclinations toward male privilege. [Men's male privileges are not inclinations, exactly. They are structural, institutionally supported ways we men are that harm women whether we know it or not. They are concrete; they exist in real space and time, as harmful and oppressive misogynistic and sexist acts, not as possibilities.] I have been very conscious for as long as I can remember of the potential for men to harm women, children, and other men. I have lived and breathed it for a long time - as a survivor, an advocate, a researcher, a pro-feminist ally, and a friend and mentor to abusive men and boys. But for reasons that seem fairly clear, given my psychological response to this exposure (which I don’t feel comfortable exposing to public scrutiny at this time), I was never able to face up to the fact that I’m just as capable of that sort of violence, domination, and hatred as those men who have haunted my nightmares, as well as those of people close to me.

[Your history of being abused as a child is not appropriate to raise again here, which I believe you have already done once before in this correspondence. The issue is male privilege and entitlement, and dishonest, which all men participate in to varying degrees, regardless of whether or not, or to what degrees, we have been harmed in our pasts. To do so is to put into practice a tactic we men use well to our advantage, at women's expense.]

I was ignorant, convinced that I would never feel any desire that superseded another person’s (whether a partner or a stranger), that I was somehow immune to this type of desire, a cultural norm for men in patriarchy. Obviously I’m not, and I certainly wasn’t then. But I am able to recognize that fact now and, with some help, deal with the responsibilities of being a “recovering sexist,” as Pearl Cleage put it.

[To name oneself as "a recovering sexist" is not sufficient evidence of such recovery.]

[Julian asked:] What do you think would be appropriate, in terms of accountability to Womanist and Feminist bloggers, for you to do to attempt to rebuild trust, to demonstrate that sufficient systems of accountability are in place now that weren’t in 2007 and 2008?

As you might very well imagine, my initial response to this question was much the same as the last. But I realize that it is important to make clear what I think is appropriate before comparing notes on the subject. Along the same lines as my previous answer, I feel that I need to demonstrate that I can live according to my professed values. And while I do not mean in any way to diminish the significance of the harm I have caused, I believe, and the people who know me well and have watched me grow up are in agreement, that my crime in January ‘07 was an isolated incident. [But demonstrating alarming self-unawareness of your own self-centeredness and arrogance, and presumptions of entitlements demonstrated in this piece of writing is not an isolated incident. And much of what shows up here is the issue, if the issue is "Do you get how male supremacist you can be and still are?"] It was not indicative of a wolf in sheep’s clothing who posed as an ally to prey upon vulnerable women - and it’s a long, long way from establishing a pattern of such predatory behavior. That is nothing more than a caricature manufactured by bloggers who, understandably (but regrettably) so, know little to nothing about me or my life.

[We know Kyle by what Kyle shows us, by what he says, by what we learn about what he does off-line that he hasn't addressed online. If a man repeatedly acts in male supremacist ways, showing little to know consciousness of how and to what extent his male entitlements and privileges are enacted, and if, while doing this, a man makes a claim that he is more self-aware, or "recovering", or not a wolf in sheep's clothing, or not a stereotype, in my view an appropriate conclusion to come to is that the man "still doesn't get it".]

That said, it took a year-and-a-half for me to confess to a crime of exploitation against a woman, and that was only under the pressure of criminal prosecution. And during that time, I continued to present myself uncritically. Regardless of the personal circumstances involved, or whatever degree of identity crisis I was facing, my silence was inexcusable.

[Yes. And that great chunks of that silence and completely self-serving behavior continue to this day.]

Ironically, the bulk of suggestions I have received from feminists online asked that I shut up - and to be clear, shutting up was often implied under something to the effect of dying, disappearing, or being dismembered (and again, while interesting, I’m skeptical about how this sort of approach would actually solve anything, save for killing off all men, and later, any dominant group in society). [Kyle the persecuted victim is back. There is no suggestion that all men ought to be killed, and to the degree that some of us have contemplated such a world, it is utterly impossible to achieve, and so remains a form of rhetoric.] I believe regaining trust is a matter of listening first and, when necessary, speaking up self-critically (for the same reason that a student does not merely read a textbook or listen to a lecture, but becomes engaged through writing, discussion, and other vehicles for critical thinking/reflection). [As I see it, Kyle has not exhibited much behavior that demonstrates he is listening to what feminists are saying; instead, he apparently feels victimized by these suggestions and comments.] And as I implied before, the outcome (trust, respect, support, etc.) is not the point - it’s a moral obligation. I believe I ought to be open, honest, and critical with others about my own participation in sexism and other forms of oppression - I’m young, White, middle-class, male, heterosexual, and American, so I don’t anticipate running out of experience to draw upon in this regard - and to invite feedback and criticism from the friends, family members, critics, and others I mentioned above.

[I recommend Kyle start with what you did to that woman in a way that doesn't invisibilise her humanity as just as important as your own, and in a way that doesn't turn her into pornography, again.]

While drawing upon such criticism is valuable to me, I want to avoid relying on women to “fix me.” It would be rather ironic, attempting to take the burden of sexism off women’s shoulders by adding the burden of humanizing men. [Men are partly humanised by being humane and not sexist to women.] So, I believe I ought to listen and listen closely to feminists, being careful not to abuse their time and attention, and of course, being familiar with feminist theory and what women have been saying about sexism for a long time. I believe I ought to accept the personal responsibility of doing whatever I need to do as a man - mentally, emotionally, and spiritually - to not harm women, and with any luck, help advance women’s standing in the world.

[But when Kyle is told, by feminists, to be silent on his blog, he dismisses this recommendation as utterly ludicrous. So much for the learning by listening.]

And as I previously stated with regard to blogging, I plan to steer clear of direct involvement in feminist and pro-feminist organizations and discussions, at least for a long period of time.

[And Kyle, by his own statements, intends to ignore what feminists have recommended he do.]

I am open to feedback here. I am not straying from others’ viewpoints to be difficult or “win” an argument. [But Kyle has been tremendously male supremacist in this writing.] I’m trying to get my ideas out in the open to allow others to dissect and interrogate them. So, have at it, if you’re willing. And I want to be quite clear about this will I’m talking about, given the responses I’ve seen from bloggers in the past. I am not, nor am I capable of, forcing anyone to read, interrogate, and respond to my thoughts. If you don’t care, think it’s a waste of time, or simply would prefer not to be troubled by what I have to say, ignore me. Direct your attention elsewhere.

[That is a given. Most people I know are doing exactly that.]

[Julian asked:] What have you learned about yourself and how it is that you violated that young woman who you had a position of authority over, not just as a man, but also as her Resident Assistant?

While my previous comments about being ignorant and in denial about my own capacity to harm women were brief, and potentially vague, [No. They were very vague.] they represent the best concise summary of my understanding of what happened and why. While I might have been highly advanced intellectually and politically, I was immature. My sexuality was very repressed, which again, has a lot to do with my experiences of, and responses to, childhood sexual abuse, [and this would be the third time this irrelevant information appears here] as well as later involvements with anti-rape/anti-porn activism, research, and advocacy. In a position of authority over a woman who was incapacitated, well aware that it was highly unlikely anyone would find out, I acted on impulse and exposed her breast, and then I photographed her without her consent.

[I remain unclear about what happened next. What did Kyle do, and from what value system, when uploading the images into his computer. That seems more calculated than impulsive. It takes time to do. One has to know what one has done, and decide to hold onto it, rather than report it. How is it that the police got involved? Did Kyle report himself?]

Also, this is pretty much just splitting hairs, but I should clarify, I was not the resident advisor for the victim. I was the head resident advisor for a complex with two residences halls of about 200-250 students each - Pierce Hall, which is all-male, and White Hall, which is coed. My “house” was the basement floor of Pierce with about 45 male students. I was, however, on duty for the entire complex and assisted two other staff members who were helping the female student - they called me to assist and left shortly after I arrived at the scene. If anything, my position as a leader on staff makes what I did much worse, so I’m not defending myself here. Just wanted to clarify.

[That doesn't matter. Although one issue is: how many times did Kyle encounter the victim prior to him violating her? Did she know him by name? Did she know that he was an R.A.? Did she know he could have such access to her? Did she know there might be a circumstance in which he would be left alone with her? Was he ever attracted to her in an objectifying way prior to the incident? If so, why did he agree to be left alone to watch over her?]

[Julian asked:] Why are your name and photograph not visible on your blog as they were before your time in jail?

My name is printed on my blog multiple times within the contents of individual blog posts. However, as of right this moment, it is not printed on an “About the Blogger” page like in the past, nor is my photo available on the site. In the interest of presenting a clearer impression of what my blog is about, as well as my purpose for managing it, I set up pages with a description of the blog (with an emphasis on the meaning behind the “Road Less Traveled” title), a disclaimer (clarifying my social location and the privileges/limitations associated with it), and a comment policy. I will soon add a bio page with my name and photo. For me, who I am as a writer is shaped significantly by what I write (taking into account, of course, personal factors such as race, class, and gender), which is why I have briefly put off developing a new “About the Blogger” page as I add new material. And as you might expect, I’m trying to explore new areas of activism and service supporting peace, justice, and sustainability (outside of feminism), so for that reason, the bio is a bit of a work in progress.

[It comes across to me as an attempt to hide aspects of Kyle's identity. Why isn't his name on the cover page? There are ways to make one's name and location very visible. He has not made that a priority, while he has prioritised other structural changes to your blog. That is politically problematic, and, in my view, irresponsible.]

[Julian wrote: Do you think it would be appropriate and responsible to post current photographs of yourself on your blog? If so, would you please post a current, well-lit photograph of yourself here and on your own blog that shows visitors what you look like currently, in 2009. If not, please explain why.

I have no problem posting a photo of myself on my personal blog. I feel that it could help readers connect with me by seeing the person whose words they’re reading - or, as the case may be, marveling at how I manage to not look bloated, being full of shit and all. With respect to your blog, Julian, I would expect that you could retrieve my photo from my blog, if you felt so inclined.

[I did that--but the image was not found on his blog--I didn't find any picture of him there. I found it elsewhere online. But the matter of what I post about Kyle isn't exactly the issue. The issue is: does Kyle do things which have the effect of making himself less, not more, visible and responsible to those who have a right to know everything about what he did to another human being? What is the political function, that is, the effect, of him being hazy on details about his crime?]

[Julian wrote:] How might anyone not closely in your life know if and when you change your hairstyle, hair color, amount of facial hair change, clothing style, or weight to a significant degree, and in what town or city you live and study? If your appearance changes, who should be made aware of that, in your view?

My appearance, as well as where I live, work, and study, is not the business of anyone but those close to me. [I strongly disagree.] While I respect that exposing men who have commited abuse (which I support) - and then going the extra step of aggressively monitoring them (which I do not support) - may help people, survivors in particular, feel that justice has been done, I don’t believe that the actual benefit, in terms of preventing further violence, is worth the invasion of privacy. [That is a very self-serving conclusion to come to, given what else Kyle says before that in this paragraph.] In other words, I believe the latter (privacy invasion) may undermine the former (violence prevention). I fully expect that you will disagree, so I strongly encourage your feedback. [I very strongly disagree.]

As your question seems to pertain to the registration of “sex offenders,” a legal classification that did not apply to my case, I will share my general viewpoint on registration requirements and their utility, which may help clarify my position on who has a right to know my personal information.

[I would argue it did apply to Kyle's "case" if his case is his life and what he's done during it, to date. That he wasn't charged with a sex crime is, in my opinion, a gross injustice to the woman who Kyle sexually violated, and to all women who have been sexually violated by men who then were not charged and sentenced accordingly.]

(On a related note, I know there are major discrepancies between your account of why I was not required to register and the facts surrounding the case, in addition to major discrepancies between your description of the criminal charges and the facts surrounding the case… to say nothing of your bizarre speculations regarding the racial and sexual politics involved in my prosecution and sentencing - I see where you’re going, but you’ve made claims that you simply cannot even begin to back up, which undermines your position… but that is another discussion for another time.)

[I welcome getting clear about this.]

I believe sex offender registration encourages the general public to believe that the threat of sexual violence (although, to be clear, sexually violent crimes are only one component of “sex offenses” - there are other non-violent examples) is contained. The perception is that the only men (the vast majority of sex offenders are men, so I’ll be specific here) who pose a threat to commit sexual violence are sex offenders, or the perception is is that sex offenders are more likely than other men to commit sexual violence, hence the aggressive monitoring. The first claim is obviously false, and the second is dubious, given what we know about under-reporting and recidivism rates.

As we know, sexual violence is extremely under-reported, a phenomenon that has been studied by several feminist, criminal justice, and human rights organizations, and certainly a disturbing reality to which any advocate for SV/DV survivors can attest. If only a small fraction of cases are reported, then it would seem that we’re singling out a select few who are no more dangerous than the men who committed abuse but simply never got caught. We also know, based on DOJ statistics, that sex offenders are less likely than any other group of criminals to commit a new offense of any type (though, when they do re-offend, they are four-times more likely to have committed a new sex crime than non-sex offenders who re-offend - though I would assume such is the case with other “types” of criminals who repeat the same type of offense). So, in addition to diverting our concern away from men who have committed abuse but never got caught, we point the finger at men whose likelihood of re-offending is considerably low.

[This is not my experience of "sex offenders".]

I can understand and sympathize with folks who want to be able to identify, contain, and ultimately eradicate the threat of sexual violence (I’m on their side), [only to the degree that Kyle's freedoms and entitlements as a white man are not impinged upon] as well as survivors who want to expose their abusers (I’m there, too). It’s not the exposing and naming that I’m concerned about - as I’ve demonstrated in my own experiences of wrongdoing, I think men who have committed abuse ought to be called out and held accountable. But I have serious doubts as to whether the monitoring you are suggesting actually helps more than it harms.

[And I believe Kyle coming to these conclusions is grossly self-serving.]

This is probably no secret, Julian, but your utter disregard for men’s privacy - and yes, even men who have committed abuse - neglects a vital element of their development as human beings. [This boldly assumes men's privacy is inherently more important that girls and women's development free from sexualized harm, and assumes that privacy helps men behave humanely, when, in fact, it is the right of privacy of men that allows most sex crimes to occur, and to never be prosecuted: that is, male sex offenders do not usually, and hardly ever, report themselves to the police, thereby maintaining their privacy. Whose humanity is served by such actions?] And given your politics, I don’t expect you necessarily to sympathize, but forcing men who have committed abuse into a box, [I have no such abilities. I doubt I could effectively force even one man into one box; this rhetorical approach, of taking things and making them into grand absolutes, is a male supremacist strategy for evading responsibility and accountability] permanently labeling and stigmatizing them, and ensuring that they will never be able to move forward from (just to clarify, not “forget” or “disregard” - “move forward from”) the terrible wrongdoings they have committed doesn’t seem like a viable path toward rehabilitation. [And, as noted, rehabilitating men is not my aim. Removing misogynistic sexually dangerous men from society is something I wish would happen, yesterday. Working to end men's violence against women is what I am interested in, and I believe a part of ending it is through not pretending men have any right to privacy not extended to women: such as the right to live privately and not be sexually abused.] So, at best you could say that aggressive monitoring diverts attention (and an insane amount of resources) from more serious threats, and at worst it makes it painfully difficult, if not impossible, for men to make the necessary changes in their lives to truly rehabilitate.

[I think there are far more effective solutions than that.]

I am not without my own personal biases, obviously. The blogger who originally wrote about my arrest did not discover it on her own. A young man, who was a fellow student of mine in college, informed her. That in itself did not bother me - it was a matter of public record, and quite frankly, if I had witnessed such a blatant example of hypocrisy, particularly by a so-called “pro-feminist male,” I would have called him out in precisely the same way. It was when I found out who the young man was, and recalled what I had heard about him from several women who came to me as an advocate during college, that I became concerned. The young man who outed me to the feminist blogosphere was (and perhaps still is) a serial rapist.

[What is his name? Where does he now live? Can you produce a photograph of him?]

So I’m not surprised when I realize that many of the most misogynist men I have ever met, who wouldn’t be caught dead supporting women’s liberation in any way, shape, or form, will gladly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with feminists when it comes to identifying a scapegoat for sexual violence.

[This is an exceptional situation, not a common one. Most men, profeminist or not, actively misogynistic or not, do not stand with women in any meaningfully accountable ways.]

Regardless of what other men have done, I bear responsibility for my actions. And I certainly anticipate that, as a result of those actions, women may feel threatened by me. [May, or ought to?] And in order to approach that conflict responsibility, I will continue to be open and honest with women (and for that matter, men) in my life about my personal history, in addition to avoiding any sort of privileged access to communities of feminists/women. On the other hand, I hope you can understand my skepticism at the suggestion that keeping the world up-to-speed on my appearance and whereabouts is actually making anyone safer.

[I see no reason for any sex offender not to do that.]

This type of discussion regarding registration and monitoring of sex offenders, whether state-sponsored or organized by survivors, raises a lot of questions that go far beyond the nature of our discussion here. So I’ll leave it at that for now. But I would be open to discussing these registration issues with you in some other venue.


Okay, not really a conclusion. But I need to wrap up my side of the dialogue and give you and others a chance to respond. Thanks again for your questions.